PavCo Multimedia Synergistics Weblog

March 4, 2008

All Year Television

Filed under: Entertainment,TV — CPav @ 7:28 pm
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NBC Television announced a few weeks ago, around the time the writers’ strike ended, that they were switching away from the traditional model of the television season, to a 12-month schedule. This is, in a way, something I’ve been advocating for years, and something that viewers have been able to take advantage of thanks to the original programming being offered on cable networks, for a number of years, but it’s the first time that a network has fully embraced the concept. Assuming, of course, that they actually do fully embrace the concept, which remains to be seen.

When I was a kid, the television season ran from roughly Memorial Day to roughly Opening Day of the baseball season. A television show would have about 24 episodes in a season, and would sometimes take a week off around Christmas or New Year’s, but other than that, new episodes reliably aired weekly. Summers were filled with variety shows, filler programming, and reruns.

Fast forward a bit, and you found production costs going up and more networks and such, and eventually we found ourselves with the current September to May season, with each program running between 20 and 23 episodes, with new episodes often a rarity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Summers have been given over to reality programs and “burn offs”, episodes of canceled series that were completed before the program was pulled from the network schedule. If the NBC brass is to be believed, however, that might be at an end.

NBC has been looking at the success of summer drama series on basic cable networks (The Closer, Mad Men, and Greek are recent examples), and asked themselves, “Why can’t we do that?” And the answer was, they can. They haven’t revealed exactly what their plans are, but have indicated that they won’t necessarily be waiting for Fall or Spring to debut new shows. When the show is ready, and when there’s an opening on the schedule, they’ll plug the new show in.

For quite some time, I’ve been advocating spreading the season out more. My theory is that it would be possible to divide the year into three segments: September through November; January through May, and June through August. They’ve almost been doing this already, with shows like Heroes going on break during the holiday season, and others, like 24, not starting their season until January. What I’m thinking, though, is that some series would run fewer than 22 episodes, maybe as few as 6-10, as their storylines dictate, as they do in Britain. Stories which require more time to develop can run in the January-May “season”, with the summer series representing more “boutique”-style shows, which the networks wouldn’t expect to generate the same rating level as the other seasons’ shows.

I’m anxiously awaiting what NBC decides to actually do with this, and I’ll keep you posted.

The 300 Project: 1/42


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